BEST SEEN AT: Ranthambhor, Rajasthan; Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh
STATUS: Schedule I/Endangered
GOOD TO KNOW: Each tiger has a different stripe pattern, much like our fingerprints, which is now used to enumerate and identify the big cat
THE TIGER is a very reserved animal, inhabiting remote areas. This makes the task of conservationists all the more daunting. However, one thing is clear — the clock is ticking for India’s rapidly dwindling tiger population. In the International Year of the Tiger, Corbett National Park, the flagship of India’s Project Tiger initiative, has lost four of the big cats under mysterious circumstances. By official estimates, India lost 85 tigers in 2009, with Kaziranga losing 15 percent of it’s population and Sariska and Panna recording no tigers. Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh claims that there are 15 other reserves where they could die out. Lack of funds, equipment and, most of all, political will is turning the reserves into risk-free zones for poachers. Ravaged by mining, infrastructure projects and floods, the barely 5 percent of India’s land that constitutes its reserve forests can only be saved by proactive legislation, tighter implementation of the laws and by the immediate creation of a Special Protection Force for the 1,400 tigers that are left in the wild.
PRERNA SINGH BINDRA